The Emancipation Proclamation Essay

Jeremy Simmons December 15, 2008 Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation On January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war, United States President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states” are, and henceforward shall be free. ” The Emancipation Proclamation consisted of two executive orders. The first one, issued September 22, 1862, declared the freedom of all slaves in any state of the Confederate States of America that did not return to Union control by January 1, 1863.

The second order, issued January 1, 1863, named the specific states where it applied. When the proclamation came into effect, it was widely criticized, because it freed the slaves over whom some people said the Union had no power over. In practice, it committed the Union to ending slavery, which was a controversial decision in the North. Lincoln issued the Executive Order by his authority as “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy” under Article II, section 2 of the United States Constitution.

Initially, the proclamation did not free any slaves of the border states (Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia), or any southern state (or part of a state) already under Union control. It first directly affected only those slaves who had already escaped to the Union side. However, when the slaves heard of the Proclamation, they quickly escaped to Union lines as the Army units moved South. As the Union armies conquered the Confederacy, thousands of slaves were freed each day until nearly all “approximately 4 million”, according to the 1860 census, were freed by July 1865. Slave Census, 1860). When the war finally came to an end, the people who had come up with the idea of the proclamation were concerned, since the proclamation was a war measure; it had not permanently ended slavery. Several former slave states passed legislation prohibiting slavery; however, some slavery continued to exist until the institution was ended by the sufficient states’ ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 18, 1865. Before the proclamation the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 required individuals to return fugitive slaves to their owners.

Initially this did not occur in areas of war because some Union generals declared slaves in occupied areas as contraband or illegal imports of war. This decision was controversial because it implied recognition of the Confederacy as a separate nation under international law, a notion which Lincoln steadfastly denied. As a result, he did not promote the contraband designation. Some generals also declared the slaves under their jurisdiction to be free and were replaced when they refused to rescind such declarations.

Abraham Lincoln moved gradually to deal with the issue of freeing the slaves. On March 13, 1862, Lincoln forbade Union Army officers from returning fugitive slaves. On April 10, 1862, Congress declared that the federal government would compensate slave owners who freed their slaves. Slaves in the District of Columbia were freed on April 16, 1862 and their owners compensated. On June 19, 1862, Congress prohibited slavery in United States territories.

By this act, they opposed the 1857 ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States in the Dred Scott Case that Congress was powerless to regulate slavery in U. S. territories. In January 1862, Thaddeus Stevens, the Republican leader in the House, called for total war against the rebellion to include emancipation of slaves, arguing that emancipation, by forcing the loss of enslaved labor, would ruin the rebel economy. In July 1862, Congress passed and Lincoln signed the “Second Confiscation Act. ” It liberated slaves held by “rebels”. It provided: “ SEC. 2.

And be it further enacted, That if any person shall hereafter incite, set on foot, assist, or engage in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States, or the laws thereof, or shall give aid or comfort thereto, or shall engage in, or give aid and comfort to, any such existing rebellion or insurrection, and be convicted thereof, such person shall be punished by imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years, or by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars, and by the liberation of all his slaves, if any he have; or by both of said punishments, at the discretion of the court.

SEC. 9. And be it further enacted, That all slaves of persons who shall hereafter be engaged in rebellion against the government of the United States, or who shall in any way give aid or comfort thereto, escaping from such persons and taking refuge within the lines of the army; and all slaves aptured from such persons or deserted by them and coming under the control of the government of the United States; and all slaves of such person found or being within any place occupied by rebel forces and afterwards occupied by the forces of the United States, shall be deemed captives of war, and shall be forever free of their servitude, and not again held as slaves. ” (The Second Confiscation Act, 1863). Many people had long been advising Lincoln to free all slaves. A mass rally in Chicago on September 7, 1862, demanded an immediate and universal emancipation of slaves. A delegation headed by William W.

Patton met the President at the White House on September 13. Lincoln had declared in peacetime that he had no constitutional authority to free the slaves. “Even used as a war power, emancipation was a risky political act. Public opinion as a whole was against it. ”(Guelzo, 2005). There would be strong opposition among Copperhead Democrats or Peace Democrats and an uncertain reaction from loyal border states. “Delaware and Maryland already had a high percentage of free Negroes: 91. 2% and 49. 7%, respectively, in 1860. ”(Kolchin,1994). Abraham Lincoln had the first discussions of the proclamation with his cabinet on July 1862.

Abraham Lincoln believed he needed a Union victory on the battlefield so his decision would appear positive and strong. The Battle of Antietam, in which Union troops turned back a Confederate invasion of Maryland, gave him the opportunity to issue a preliminary proclamation on September 22, 1862. The final proclamation was issued in January 1863, 100 days later. Although he was granted authority by Congress, Lincoln used his powers as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, “as a necessary war measure” as the basis of the proclamation, rather than the equivalent of a statute enacted by Congress or a constitutional amendment.

As I have mentioned the Proclamation did not straight way free many slaves. Secretary of State William H. Seward at the time commented, “We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free. ” (DiLorenzo, 2002). Had any seceding state rejoined the Union before January 1, 1863, it could have kept slavery, at least temporarily. The Proclamation only gave Lincoln the legal basis to free the slaves in the areas of the South that were still in rebellion.

Thus, it at first freed only some slaves already behind Union lines. However, it also took effect as the Union armies advanced into the Confederacy. The Emancipation Proclamation also allowed for the enrollment of freed slaves into the United States military. During the war nearly 200,000 African Americans or blacks joined the Union Army and most of them were ex-slaves. Their contributions gave the North additional manpower that was significant in winning the war. The Confederacy did not allow slaves in their army until the final months before its defeat.

Though the counties of Virginia that were soon to form West Virginia were specifically exempted from the Proclamation, a condition of the state’s admittance to the Union was that its constitution provide for the abolition of slavery. “Slaves in the border states of Maryland and Missouri were also emancipated by separate state action before the Civil War ended. In early 1865, Tennessee adopted an amendment to its constitution prohibiting slavery. ” (Miller, 2008). Slaves in Kentucky and Delaware were not emancipated until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified. Abraham Lincoln issued the proclamation in two parts as I have mentioned.

The first part, issued on September 22, 1862, was a preliminary announcement outlining the intent of the second part, which officially went into effect 100 days later on January 1, 1863, during the second year of the Civil War. It was Abraham Lincoln’s declaration that all slaves would be permanently freed in all areas of the Confederacy that had not already returned to federal control by January 1863. The ten affected states were individually named in the second part. Not included were the Union slave states of Maryland, Delaware, Missouri and Kentucky. Also not named was the state of Tennessee, which Union armies already controlled.

Specific exemptions were stated for areas also under Union control on January 1, 1863, namely 48 counties that would soon become West Virginia, seven other named counties of Virginia, New Orleans and 13 named parishes nearby. Fortunately, the Emancipation took place without violence by masters or ex-slaves. The proclamation represented a shift in the war objectives of the North, reuniting the nation was no longer the only goal. It represented a major step toward the ultimate abolition of slavery in the United States and new freedom. In the military, reaction to the proclamation varied widely, with some units nearly ready to rebel in protest.

Some soldiers also deserted in protest. Other units were inspired by the adoption of a cause that dignified their efforts, such that at least one unit took up the motto “For Union and Liberty”. Slaves had been part of the “engine of war” for the Confederacy. They produced and prepared food; sewed uniforms; repaired railways; worked on farms and in factories, shipping yards, and mines; built fortifications; and served as hospital workers and common laborers. News of the Proclamation spread rapidly by word of mouth, arousing hopes of freedom, creating general confusion, and encouraging thousands to escape to Union lines.

The Proclamation was immediately denounced by Copperhead Democrats who opposed the war and tolerated both secession and slavery. It became a campaign issue in the 1862 elections, in which the Democrats gained 28 seats in the House as well as the governorship of New York. Many War Democrats, who had supported Lincoln’s goal of saving the Union, drew back at supporting the emancipation. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in November 1863 made indirect reference to the Proclamation and the ending of slavery as a war goal with the phrase “new birth of freedom”. The Proclamation solidified Lincoln’s support among the rapidly growing abolitionist element of the Republican Party and ensured they would not block his re-nomination in 1864. ”(Nevins, 1960) As Lincoln hoped, the Proclamation turned foreign popular opinion in favor of the Union for its new commitment to end slavery. That shift ended the Confederacy’s hopes of gaining official recognition, particularly from the United Kingdom. If Britain or France, both of which had already abolished slavery, were to support the Confederacy, they would be supporting slavery.

Prior to Lincoln’s decree, Britain’s actions had favored the Confederacy, especially in its construction of warships such as the CSS Alabama and CSS Florida. As Henry Adams noted, “The Emancipation Proclamation has done more for us than all our former victories and all our diplomacy. ” Giuseppe Garibaldi hailed Lincoln as “the heir of the aspirations of John Brown”. Alan Van Dyke, a representative for workers from Manchester, England, wrote to Lincoln saying, “We joyfully honor you for many decisive steps toward practically exemplifying your belief in the words of your great founders: ‘All men are created free and equal. ” The Emancipation Proclamation served to ease tensions with Europe over the North’s determination to defeat the South at all costs. The Trent Affair particularly had caused severe tensions with Great Britain. After Lincoln’s death, his action in the proclamation was highly praised. “The anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation was celebrated as a black holiday for more than 50 years; the holiday of Juneteenth also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day was created in some states to honor it. ” (Guezlo, 2005). In 1913, the fiftieth anniversary of the Proclamation, there were particularly large celebrations.

As the years went on and American life continued to be deeply unfair towards blacks, cynicism towards Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation increased. In addition, some 20th century African American intellectuals, including W. E. B. Du Bois, James Baldwin and Julius Lester, described the proclamation as essentially worthless. Perhaps the strongest attack was in Lerone Bennett’s book, Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream (2000), which claimed that Lincoln was a white supremacist who issued the Emancipation Proclamation in lieu of the real racial reforms for which radical abolitionists pushed.

In his book, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Allen C. Guelzo noted the professional historians’ lack of substantial respect for the document, since it has been the subject of few major scholarly studies. He argued that Lincoln was America’s “last Enlightenment politician” and as such was dedicated to removing slavery strictly within the bounds of law. (Guezlo, 2005). However, other historians have given more credit to Lincoln for what he accomplished within “the tensions of his cabinet and a society at war, for his own growth in political and moral stature, and for the promise he held out to the slaves. (Goodwin, 2005). We cannot ever know but more might have been accomplished if he had not been assassinated. As Eric Foner wrote: “Lincoln was not an abolitionist or Radical Republican, a point Bennett reiterates innumerable times. He did not favor immediate abolition before the war, and held racist views typical of his time. But he was also a man of deep convictions when it came to slavery, and during the Civil War displayed a remarkable capacity for moral and political growth. ”

References
DiLorenzo, Thomas J. (2002). The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War. Detroit, Michigan: Detroit Publishing Company. Foner, Eric. A review of Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream, Los Angeles Times Book Review, 9 Apr 2000, accessed Dec 14, 2008. Goodwin, Doris Kearns. A Team of Rivals, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005 Guelzo, Allen C. (2005). Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America. Simon and Schuster,p.18. Kolchin, Peter (1994). American Slavery: 1619-1877. New York: Hill ; Wang.p.82. Miller, Steven (2008). Freedmen ; Southern Society Project. Retrieved December 14, 2008, Web site: http://www.history.umd.edu/Freedmen/chronol.htm. Nevins, Allen. (1960) Ordeal of the Union: vol 6. War Becomes Revolution, 1862-1863. .Slave Census (1860) Retrieved December 13, 2008, from Son of the South Web site: http://www.sonofthesouth.net/slavery/slave-maps/slave-census.htm. The Second Confiscation Act. U.S., Statutes at Large, Treaties, and Proclamations of the United States of America (1863). Vol.12, p.589-92.